<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=205228923362421&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

Space sustainability and data management with Melissa Quinn.

Slingshot Aerospace Ltd. Managing Director Melissa Quinn walks us through space sustainability and data management and the growing UK space industry.



Deep Space


Slingshot Aerospace, a leader in satellite tracking, space traffic coordination, and space modeling and simulation, recently announced the expansion of its international operations with the launch of Slingshot Aerospace Ltd. The new entity will operate from Slingshot’s first international offices in Cornwall and London – representing a significant step in the company's commitment to a global growth strategy. We learn more from Managing Director of Slingshot Aerospace Ltd, Melissa Quinn.

You can connect with Melissa on LinkedIn and learn more about Slingshot Aerospace on their website.

Remember to leave us a 5-star rating and review in your favorite podcast app. 

Miss an episode? Sign up for our weekly intelligence briefing, Signals and Space, and you’ll never miss a beat.

Audience Survey

We want to hear from you! Please complete our 4 question survey. It’ll help us get better and deliver you the most mission-critical space intel every day.

Want to hear your company in the show?

You too can reach the most influential leaders and operators in the industry. Here’s our media kit. Contact us at space@n2k.com to request more info.

Want to join us for an interview?

Please send your pitch to space-editor@n2k.com and include your name, affiliation, and topic proposal.

T-Minus is a production of N2K Networks, your source for strategic workforce intelligence. © 2023 N2K Networks, Inc. 

[MUSIC] Welcome to T-Minus Deep Space from N2K Networks.

Hi, I'm Maria Varmasas, host of the T-Minus Space Daily Podcast.

And Deep Space includes extended interviews and bonus content, where a deeper look into some of the topics that we cover on our daily program.

[MUSIC] Slingshot Aerospace, a leader in satellite tracking, space traffic coordination, and space modeling and simulation, recently announced the expansion of its international operations with the launch of Slingshot Aerospace Limited.

The new entity will operate from Slingshot's first international offices in Cornwall and London, representing a significant step in the company's commitment to a global growth strategy.

We learn more from managing director of Slingshot Aerospace Limited, Melissa Quinn.

[MUSIC] I'm Melissa Quinn, and I am the general manager of Slingshot's International Business Unit.

And that's their recent job.

Previously, I was running the UK subsidiary of Slingshot, which was known as Ceradata.

And we've merged that into this incredible company that's growing very quickly and ready to take on the rest of the world outside of the US.

So that's going to be my job over the next few months and years, which is massively exciting.

Previously, up until last summer, I was running the spaceport here in Cornwall, where we launched with Virgin Orbit for the first time ever from UK soil.

Didn't quite go to plan, but it was almost a decade of incredible tenacity and expertise in the space domain and launch and working with local community.

And yeah, really, really amazing to have that life experience.

And yeah, now I'm working with Space Sustainability and Space Domain Awareness.

And yeah, it's completely different, but I love it.

Yeah, it's a fascinating area.

Honestly, I was thinking, what would I want to ask you about first?

Like, why would you want to, why did you join?

Because I imagine it's fascinating or what do they do differently?

So I'm just like, which one do I want to start with first?

So I would love to know, yeah, I guess when you heard about this job or when they contacted you and you went, oh yeah, that's definitely what I want to do.

Tell me about that.

Like, what appealed to you and what's it like now?

So when you work in the launch side of the industry, it's incredibly exciting, but it is all encompassing and it takes over your life.

Like launch windows slip all the time.

You're always working to this date that doesn't really ever exist.

And then it happens and it's just so intense.

And that's, you know, it's addictive, definitely.

And I get why people stay in launch for family life.

But also just for, I really wanted to get to know another part of the industry.

I thought it was really important for my, my career was to not just stay in one area of it, but to expand my knowledge and experience and my background is more aviation in aerospace and space.

And so I really thought when this opportunity came up and I met the founder, she, you know, she was such a figurehead and so passionate about space sustainability.

And through my time with launch and understanding that there is a responsibility of what we're putting into space, how it behaves in space, as well as what happens at end of life.

And when I go out to the media or public, they got asked two things like, how does a rocket launch and what happens to space junk?

What's going on with space junk?

So this was kind of for me, the next side of my story was starting to delve into that.

And I'm all about, you know, how we can keep space safe and secure and sustainable future generations.

So for me, when, when they got in touch, it was like, yeah, I, you know, it fit those tick those boxes, sustainability, but also a new opportunity to learn.

Space sustainability is genuinely, I mean, just a fascinating area.

And there are so many different approaches to it and different schools of thought.

And I know Slingshot is doing a lot of really cool things in this space.

So I guess this is the question to sort of give me the pitch for what Slingshot's doing, because it's doing a lot.

Yeah, it's hard to kind of summarize at the minute.

It's it's kind of just moved out of startup phase, you know, post series A looking towards series B.

So where we're growing and it's really exciting.

So basically we are a data analytics company for for space.

And we have multiple sources of incredibly rich data from contextual data.

So that's seradata as a product, which is, you know, every single launch back to Sputnik.

What's what's what the mission is, how long the lifespan is left, pattern of life movement, all of that.

That the kind of what's it doing up there, how long does it have left?

And then we've got our own sensors, our own optical sensors all around the world.

So we're pulling all the data that those optical sensors are obviously seeing.

We have environmental data from from in orbit.

And then we have this incredible technology with our AI.

And so we're pooling and fusing all that data together.

And we're giving those insights and the analytics to our customers so that they can make responsible decisions, whether that's maneuver their spacecraft or to report some suspicious activity.

And all of this is to help avoid collisions in space, help avoid dubious behavior in space and to keep it keep it sustainable for the future.

And yeah, in short, that's that's what we do.

We provide those kind of insights and you hear the same like data is king or queen.

I like to say data is queen, actually.

Data lanes.

Data lanes.

But it really is, you know, how you what you do then how you action that data.

That's going to really fundamentally, you know, be the future of how we use space.

And we want to make sure that people have the right information to make those decisions.

Yeah, I was going to say that differentiator really is I would imagine I don't want to put words in your mouth.

I would imagine that differentiator truly is making that data meaningful because throwing data at a customer is not a winning solution, but making it meaningful to them and contextualizing it is really the name of the game.



And I mean, a lot of these companies, they get the TRLs come through so they get the conjunction notifications that come.

And they're getting like hundreds and thousands of them a day.

How do you decipher which one to pay attention to and how do you decide, you know, everybody's risk threshold is going to be slightly different as well.

So for us, it's kind of creating that bespoke set of data that is actually valuable to the customer to then go and make those decisions in a timely, timely manner and take that kind of constant guesswork out of it of trying to decide what's going to happen.

So we're really that intermediary between the huge sets of data and the customer.

Yeah, that's fantastic.

Yeah, the fire hose of data effect is real.

So yeah, that is a very important role there.

So part of why we're chatting today is now Slingshot is moved or expanding its presence in the UK.

That's a really interesting move.

Can you tell me more about why?

Yeah, well, they bought and acquired Seradata as a UK founded company in 2022.

And because of its incredible data set, really, but also because, you know, we have these awesome analysts that are over here working really hard.

We have a really good reputation in the UK.

And so when I was brought on, it was start to look at, OK, are we going to continue just running a Seradata?

Or do we think that this should be the first home to Slingshot International?

And I'm going to be biased.

Of course, I know the industry in the UK so well.

It's a really amazing community.

And I also know that space situational awareness, space domain awareness is a really growing area in the UK.

And the government's really excited about the King is even supporting it through the Ashokara.

And so for me, it was kind of an easy one.

I was when they came to me and they're like, you know, if you're going to head up International is UK going to be that first site?

And I was like, yeah, definitely.

And so we announced it a couple of weeks ago and now that's it.

You know, it will be the home to our international portfolio.

So for me, it's going using this literally as our launch pad out to the world to see where what other countries will will be interested in what we have to offer for them.

So yeah, we're building quickly.

We're going to be recruiting fast over the next few months.

And really, you know, it's it's a valuable location for us.

It's not just a sales office.

This is going to be the home to the right activity.

And yeah, I'm really excited.

We'll be right back after this quick break.

That's great.

Yeah, I I love hearing about the the space ecosystem in the UK, how much it is already so established and growing.

You have such a great perspective on this, given the amazing roles you've had already.

I'm just I'd love to know your thoughts on sort of how you see Slingshot fitting in with the current UK ecosystem and sort of how what you've seen, I suppose.

Yeah, I mean, it's it's a good it's a big player, the UK in some really, you know, in some areas, small satellite manufacturing, I think is the second largest manufacturer in the world with small satellites and mostly they're trying to get the launch side going.

And communications, obviously is another big part of the UK and exploration.

And I was with the Axiom team last week, and that's just incredibly excited with the astronauts, the human spaceflight program.

So there's a lot going on over here.

And the one area that I think is really exciting is the UK's role as a regulator as policy and insurance.

It's always kind of really, you know, been a heavy hitter in those areas.

And that fits really well with where we are with space domain awareness and space sustainability, because it's lacking a lot of that at the minute.

And so the UK will is already becoming a leader in those areas.

And so to align ourselves with that kind of leadership and, you know, trusted kind of leadership as well, as they start to develop some of these legislation and regulations and policy, we want to be part of part of that because it will help us, you know, craft our products going forward as well to kind of meet the needs of what might come out the other side.

So working alongside over here and also just, you know, it's a really collaborative and quite friendly community, the space industry in the UK.

It's small enough that you kind of know everybody.

Good and bad thing, I guess.

Good and bad.

But, you know, I've been able to pull on old colleagues and from different parts of the industry and we're partnering and working together.

And we hosted a roundtable last week at the US Embassy with, you know, all the different types of companies in the UK that in this domain and it was really good.

It was challenging, but it was, you know, there's a really big collaborative spirit, US and UK.

And that's something that we're really hoping to tap into.

Yeah, absolutely.

The potential there is incredible.

I suppose I should have asked you this question earlier, but I was, you were mentioning something about, you know, as customer needs evolve and especially now that you are very much in the space situational awareness world, you know, we talked a little bit about how, you know, the deluge of data is, you know, finding what's useful in there is a challenge in and of itself.

I'm curious where you see either industry-wide capabilities or maybe focus areas for space situational awareness moving forward because certainly getting good data is going to always be a paramount need and making it make sense.

Curious if you see any other opportunity areas coming forward.

Yeah, I think, funny enough, and I still feel like I'm a bit of an outsider to this part of the industry, but one of the things I quickly notice is like just lack of communication between operators and just very simple, like some sort of chat function where they could be like, hey, are you going to move or are you going to move?

So I think there's some really base-level fundamental things that we can grow opportunities within and I think communications is definitely one.

I talked a little bit about maybe starting to look at some of the regulations and policy I think is going to be really important.

I think creating a common operating picture amongst, especially Allied nations, you know, what does that look like?

How can we grow that opportunity and be part of that?

So they're working from the same sheet, the same song sheet, and making their decisions based off of what they're commonly seeing.

So I think that's going to be really interesting.

I think there's another great opportunity around the commercial side of this.

So I mean, a lot of it still is in the government and military domain, but as commercial players become more and more interested and technologies evolve, I think, like on-orbit sensors and you know, being in space, looking back down and seeing debris from a different angle, I think it's going to be really exciting and we'll be looking to partner with people that do that.

So there's a few different areas that so far I've seen.

That's cool.

Yeah, it was sort of a philosophical question, admittedly, on my part.

I find this whole area just incredibly fascinating.

And since you're new-ish, I feel weird saying that because I'm like, you have so much experience in the space world.

It feels weird saying you're new here.

Anything surprise you as you started this job?

Maybe as you were learning about space situational awareness from the inside, anything like, wow, I didn't know that or I didn't think that was what's going on, but it is or anything like that happened?

I think that what I've been pretty shocked about is the state that we're in and how we've gotten this far as a civilization of chucking stuff into space in the best sense of the world.

But launching into space and then just being like, yeah, there you go.

It's up there and kind of saying I don't have responsibility for it anymore.

And I think actually now seeing where that's got us and seeing this slight like, oh gosh, we've got to figure this out very quickly.

And we've got to come together to figure this out because we've had 50 years of doing whatever we've wanted.

I think that's been quite surprising.

But I am an optimistic person.

I think we'll solve it because we have to.

We don't really have a choice.

Otherwise we can't use it.

And then a lot of stuff on Earth becomes a lot more difficult.

But yeah, I think that's been the most surprising thing is the actual state of our orbit.

And now that I actually get to see the data and I see the trajectory that we're on with the number of spacecraft launched and how busy it's getting and even the decrease in distance in satellites in geo.

And yeah, I'm pretty like, whoa, okay, it's kind of scary.

And we're still in a place where we haven't really got it together yet to figure it out.

I do think we will.

But yeah, that's been probably the most surprising thing to me.

I can totally believe that I'm obviously way on the outside of this.

I will just admit when I started doing this job and learning about space situational awareness, I came in with a preconceived Hollywood notion of, of course, we've got, you know, all these advanced knowledge of every little thing in every single direction.

What do you mean there's stuff we just don't know about?

Like, how is that possible?

Yeah, it's been it's been illuminating anecdotally on my side to like, wow, there's still a lot we don't know.

Well, thank goodness for a slingshot then.

Yeah, there's a need to that.

That that that's definitely made me go, okay, now I get why we do what we do and why it's really important and why people want it.


Well, I know I've taken up a ton of your time.

Thank you so much, Mel.

I just wanted to make sure that I gave you an opportunity.

There's anything else you wanted to mention before we close out that I give you that that time.

Yeah, no, I think for me, you know, the other surprising thing really, and I think as and I was saying this at the roundtable last week, both the UK and the US are approaching elections.

And I think we need to get the message out as a space community of why spaces support so important.

And I looked around this this room yesterday at the roundtable and all of them sit on these panels.

They brief ministers, they brief politicians, they talk to the media, they talk to the public.

Like, we need to get aligned on why space is important to us.

Because I really, I really think we, we need the support of politicians.

We need those budgets and those programs and those policies to have a level of priority.

And so that's what I'm going to be.

That's my little campaign over the next few months is like, how can we as a community start to get aligned on some of that messaging of why space is important?

How we need to be aware that we it's at risk at the minute and and just get out there and kind of bang the campaign trail behind the politicians as well.

It's a very, it's a very good point.

Is there anyone you feel is doing a good job of that whose example we could follow or maybe point to as like a that's what we should emulate?

Oh, there's there's some amazing story.

It's all about storytellers to me in this industry.

And I think the space industry is who's a bit guilty of being quite inward looking and we tell each other how brilliant space is.

And we're, you know, our technologies are going to save the planet, but we're really rubbish at going out and telling the average person, the average politician, the average media person.


And so there's some great communicators out there and I'll give a shout out to our own, which is Halo PR.

They did it.

They're working with us in the UK, but they're also, they did the run up to launch for the launch in the UK.

And we're able to get out to hundreds of thousands of young people all over the UK media.

We had a whole TV documentary done on us.

So there's there's some there's some great communicators.

And I think looking to them, I had the pleasure of meeting Trevor Beatty last week.

He went up on Virgin Galactic and and he was incredible.

His story, if you can check that out, that will make you feel why space is important.

And yeah, I think just looking at some of these incredible storytellers is going to be key.

That's it for T-minus Deep Space for March 30th, 2024.

We'd love to know what you think of this podcast.

You can email us at space@entuk.com or submit the survey in the show notes.

Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.

This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman.

Our associate producer is Liz Stokes.

Our executive producer is Jen Iben.

Our VP is Brandon Karp.

And I'm Maria Varmausis.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you next time.

[Music] (gentle music)

Similar posts

Stay in the loop on new releases. 

Subscribe below to receive information about new blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, and product information.